Sunday 25 Sep 2022 | 06:26 | SYDNEY
Sunday 25 Sep 2022 | 06:26 | SYDNEY

Boost to Indonesian maritime security


Justin Jones

7 December 2010 13:26

Justin Jones is Navy Fellow at the Lowy Institute and is the maritime adviser to the MacArthur Foundation Lowy Institute Asia Security Project.

Yesterday, the Jakarta Post reported an increase in funding for Indonesia's Maritime Security Coordinating Agency. It's an impressive boost, more than tripling the current budget to a total of Rp120 billion, or US$13.3 million.

The news has sparked some debate regarding the motive. Indonesia has just taken over the Presidency of ASEAN, so is this extra cash to push back against Chinese activity in the South China Sea, or is it anti-piracy, or something else'

It may be that current capabilities are not coping with the tempo of maritime security operations. After all, the Jakarta Post is today reporting moves by the Indonesian Defense Ministry to increase its budget to replace ageing equipment, in the wake of a number of accidents over the last few years involving old equipment.

The extra funding may also be a response to maritime disputes in the South China Sea. Indonesia has maritime boundary disputes with Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and China. The latter two involve overlapping claims in the Natuna Islands area where gas reserves exist. Moreover, Indonesia's membership and now presidency of ASEAN give it a broader interest in South China Sea disputes as a regional leader and advocate for regional peace and stability. Indonesia has, in the past, supported a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality in South East Asia.

But some recent figures suggest the most likely reason for this budget boost — anti-piracy.

While the world's attention has been focused on activity off Somalia and the Horn of Africa, piracy in the traditional areas of South East Asia has increased again in 2010. Piratical activities in the South China Sea have doubled since 2009, with 30 vessels targeted and 21 boardings reported in 2010. The Indonesian figures are telling. Twenty-seven incidents have been reported to date, quadrupling the 2009 figures. Of these, 17 vessels were boarded by pirates. (See here for more detailed piracy statistics).

Fortunately, the capabilities required for sovereignty protection and anti-piracy are essentially the same, falling under the rubric of maritime security operations. This is a good news story for Indonesian maritime security and, more broadly, regional maritime security.

Photo by Flickr user ecstaticist.